More than just organic vs. non-organic

Healthy food choices for you and the environment: Beyond Organic

For this edition’s health chat, I’d like to briefly discuss a topic that has a direct effect on everyone. Organic and “health foods” have become increasingly popular and available, thanks to both consumer demand, and availability at markets like Whole Foods. Organic food has great merits, the most well known being that the food is grown or raised without the use of pesticides and other chemicals which can be harmful to human health and the environment. Ideally everyone would eat organic all the time, but it can also be prohibitively expensive – especially when it comes to meat products, which can easily be double the cost of conventional varieties.

I want to mention some additional choices that consumers can make when it comes to meat, fish and poultry, besides organic vs. conventional, that also impact the quality of food, as well as the environment.

If you ever shop at Publix, you have probably noticed their “Greenwise” label for their healthy food products (both organic and conventional). Not long ago, I noticed that they began carrying not only Greenwise fruits, vegetables and packaged goods but also a special Greenwise meat section. These products are not organic, but they are a big step up from conventionally raised beef, pork and poultry.

The difference is that the animals are “naturally raised” – meaning they are raised in better, more sanitary and healthier conditions than typical livestock. They are not injected with chemical growth hormones which frequently go into conventionally raised cattle and chicken stocks in order to chemically induce weight gain. They also have not been injected with antibiotics. Why would a meat or poultry producer have to inject an animal with antibiotics? Simply, because the animal is raised in such an unsanitary, disease prone (and most likely, inhumane) environment, that if they didn’t do so, the animal would become too sick to be slaughtered and sold to you and your family for consumption! There is debate about the consequences of humans consuming these chemicals, but if you ask me – it can’t be good (especially for developing children)! What’s more, all of these chemicals make their way into groundwater supplies and run off into streams causing all kinds of environmental problems as well.

A huge variety of meat and poultry products is available “naturally raised” at Publix, Whole Foods and other grocers, and, while more expensive than conventional counterparts they are cheaper than organic. Keep an eye out for these products on your next trip to the store or ask your grocer!

I was hoping to get into the issue of farm raised fish – (the popular Atlantic Salmon variety in particular), but I’ve run out of space for this edition. Maybe next issue! Meanwhile, if this topic interests you, I highly recommend a book I have been reading which will be sure to open your eyes to the way food is produced and consumed in our modern world, and choices we can make to help improve our health and the environment. It is called “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” written by the fascinating Jane Goodall, who is best known for her groundbreaking work with baboons and chimpanzees in Africa.